Tupelo School Board 01.15.13

I will be live blogging from today’s Tupelo School Board meeting. All five board members are present, and the meeting will likely begin soon.

Meeting has begun. There is no evening meeting today, so the board will vote at this meeting.

12:15 p.m.

Scott Reed and Eric Gibens will present an update on the Tupelo High School Alumni Association. Reed is a 1976 graduate, and Gibens is a 1991 grad.

Reed: “What we want to do today is one facet of the alumni association. This is a big project and is a lot bigger than I expected it to be when I started. I think it will be a wonderful thing for the school district and for the high school, and we are going as fast as a group of voluneteers can go.”

He credits Mary Thomas for being the backbone to the organization. “I feel like she could have graduated from Tupelo High School, she is that smart,” he said.

Reed said Gibbens will work with the website.

“This whole Internet thing has caught on,” he said. “I think it will be here for a while.”

“Much of what we are trying to do will hinge on the success of the website. First things first and the first thing is to create a great, user-friendly website.”

“Eric is a Tupelo alumni. He is a leader in the community. He leads the volunteer police force for the city of Tupelo. And he was willing to build this website for us at a favorable cost because he is an alum.”

Gibbens: The site is based on a template. They wanted to keep the design minimalistic so people could get the information they wanted. He is walking the board through a prototype of the website. It would include photos and a class directory that would only be available to members.

They would also have a newsletter that can be emailed to alumni. It would also have a photo gallery with pictures of years past. It could provide as a clearinghouse of information for reunions.

Members would be able to join via the website.

Reed: “We want to get the media classes at the high school involved in this so they will have experience. It will also allow current students to connect with alumni in a way they are not doing now. Also, we are running the money through the CREATE Foundation because we know that it is an organization people trust…We have checks in balances in there that the money will be used in the way it is supposed to be used….We expect there to be a lot of money in there at some point. As the money builds, the board will be able to start forming an endowment through CREATE. We will build an endowment that is there forever to help with projects at the high school.”

Board President Eddie Prather: “I see a lot of possibilities for high school students to connect with alumni in the field they are interested in. I see some great mentor opportunities.”

Vice President Beth Stone: “I appreciate all of your hard work in getting the ball rolling on this.”

12:30 p.m.

RTI administrator Amanda Ferguson will speak about the district’s response to intervention program.

The program was founded nationally in 2004 from the No Child Left Behind act.

“It was one of the first things the nation did for school reform,” Ferguson said.

She said it is used for all students. It is used to meet instructional needs for all students and helps to determine which students need to be looked at for special education services.

She said it is founded on the premise that you can’t wait until students are failing. Assessments are given early in the year and they can determine who is in the bottom 25 percent and what interventions can be given to them.

It was founded to not send students to special education who didn’t truly need those services.

Students who need extra support are moved from tier 1 to tier 2. If they are not doing better in 10 weeks, they are moved to tier 3.

80 to 85 percent of students should be successful at tier 1 status (every student who walks in the door is on tier 1). 10 to 15 percent will need extra support, a pull out time or extra tutorial time. That is tier 2.

5 to 10 percent need more intensive special education services. That is tire 3.

In Tupelo, 90 percent of students are on tier 1, based on first round of universal screener given in October. 7 percent were on tier 2 and 3 percent were on tier 3.

Ferguson said the TPSD has made tier 1 its primary focus.

“If we have quality instruction in tier 1, we will have fewer students who will need tier 2 and tier 3.”

In tier 2, we have blended learning, using the Classworks computer program with interventionists. WE use that to find their skill level and then assign them a course designed for what level they are on.

“Can they learn and get back to the level where they need to be, if we start where they are?” Ferguson said.

At week 10, if the student is not responding to intervention, move to tier 3. It is very specific, intensive and goal focused. Students go 30 minutes every day. Students take a test twice a week so the district can monitor their progress and whether they are reaching goals.

The distirct’s next steps will be to analyze current data and see what it needs to do as a whole. It will also look at current students and where they need to be and for ways to streamline the program so students won’t have to backtrack at the end of summer break.

It screens for all grades, K-12, Ferguson said. At high school, the screener is common assessment data.

When a student moves from tier 1 to tier 2, the parents are notified in writing. They don’t have to have meetings at that level, but the district wants them to know what supports they will be given.

Ferguson said as students make progress, they move back to tier 2 and then back to tier 1.

Ferguson said interventionists are assistant teacher qualifications. The district meets with them regularly. The ones doing the Barton program are being trained regularly.

Board member Rob Hudson: What can we be looking at to know what we are doing is working or that it is better than last year or the year before?

Superintendent Gearl Loden: Especially at the K-2 level, as the younger people pass through the system, we should see more students on grade level. It takes time to put down that RTI foundation.

Ferguson: We look at several points of data. We want to make sure we look at a lot of different things to ensure where students are.

12:45 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton will discuss the district’s new teacher orientation for this year. The district has 109 new teachers this year.

Britton said the orientation is not a one-day process but is ongoing. It began with two days of flex-day credit at the beginning of the year. They met with Dr. Wanda Dean who discussed instructional strategies. They also heard about the educator code of conduct and the student information system. On the second day, they discussed principals of effective teaching.

At another meeting, they spoke more about instructional strategies, pitfalls of a first-year teacher and the high expectations of the Tupelo School District.

They had a questionaire and found a pattern. New teachers were most complementary of the district’s mentoring, the support of principals and the use of data meetings.

Feb. 20, the district will meet with new teachers about the importance of the third nine weeks and on May 1, they will focus on finishing strong. They will then survey new teachers to determine what they can do well in the future.

Loden said the district is looking at a way to make sure it is consistently developing its new teachers.

Prather: It would be interesting next fall to see the retention rate of the new teachers. He’d also like to know if the data correlates with what the district learns on its exit interviews.


Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon will provide a safety update. (I will clean this up as soon as I can)

“With the recent events that took place before Christmas, we did have a principal meeting to discuss safeguards and the crisis management plan.”

Principals discussed with their staff and met again. Dillon has spoken with a superintendent of another school district and with the chief of police. He also spoke with school board member Kenneth Wheeler, who is director of security at North Mississippi Medical Center.

We’ve looked at our perimeter fencing across the district. We are good there but we want to look at all of our fencing.

WE want to reevaluate what we are doing with our security guards…If you are in some place eight hours a day, you might get board. Mr. wheeler has a great system where they shift every two hours.

New buzzer system and camera at K-8 schools. If person doesn’t have business at the schools, an administrator will come to the door.

We are looking at a proximity card for teachers at the high school to allow them to get to different buildings. Those buildings would be locked otherwise. For students to go from one building to another, they will need a pass with a card. Buildings would be unlocked during class changes.

They are looking at their 911 radios. They used them last night and early this morning while checking road conditions.

The district will continue to check its crisis management plan.

We have a great solid plan and we want tn continue to visit that so the staff is aware of it and we want to continue to administer that

Offer Tupelo PD breakfast and lunch on Tupelo campuses. Just having their presence there, they can communicate with kids. This would be a way to have a great rapport with kids faculty and stuff. I think it is a great win-win situation.

Facilities director Julie Hinds will now speak about construction and maintenance issues. Dillon said Hinds and her staff is doing a monthly rounding to find needs before they get too bad.

Dillon also said the district will monitor police attendance at breakfast and lunch to see if it needs to do more to attract them to take advantage of it.

Hinds: said they hope to award the contract on the ECEC addition in April and hopefully complete it by December.

Some work is going on at Carver.

The district is also doing things it noticed from its rounding such as fencing, painting, storm gutters.

Over the summer, it will do some window and flooring replacement.

The high school cafeteria is in design phase. They hope to award that contract in April, have construction begin May 18 and complete July 31. That is an expansion to add seating to accommodate more students and also add some outdoor seating.

The baseball field will be done in phases. Hope to complete first one by beginning of baseball season. work on backstop, dugout, press box and landscaping. need weather to cooperate.

Hope to complete visitor season and restroom by mid season.

In the fall, hope to renovate existing building that houses restrooms and concessions and make it one building, install a restroom in the dugout, construct a new more prominent entrance to the field and to do some adjustments to the fencing where the bullpens would be inside the fence.

Hinds said they met with Coach Porter, Coach Enis and the booster club and had a good meeting.

Wheeler said he had a good conversation with Dillon about safety and that he appreciated the call and the questions.

1:04 p.m.

The board approves the consent agenda. It includes a charter bus service contract, donations, permission to advertise for Carver site work, permission to submit grants and cash flow statements.

The board agrees to pay the docket of claims.

1:06 p.m.

Finance director Linda Pannell presents the finance report. Total revenue in November was 23 percent of total budget and total expenditures were about 31 percent.

“In November, we begin spending out of our fund balance in anticipation of (tax money) that will come in January and February…Our biggest payment is generally in February and March.”

Board accepts financial statement for month ending November 30.

1:08 p.m.

Personnel director Jim Turner is presenting the personnel report. It includes one retirement with 34 years of service, including three with the Tupelo School District. Board accepts the report.

1:11 p.m.

Board approves administrative decision to expel a student from the structure day program for one year.

Board approves administrative decision to expel a student for one calendar year from Nov. 13, 2012 to Nov. 13, 2013.

Board approves administrative decision to expel a student for one calendar year from Sept. 21, 2012 to Sept. 21, 2013.

1:13 p.m.

Superintendent Gearl Loden will make a report.

He noted this is a busy time of year with the legislature in session. He noted the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents and the Mississippi School Boards Association will each have their annual conferences soon.

He also noted that Nancy Loome, the executive director of the Mississippi Parents Campaign, will have a presentation about school reform tonight at 6:30 in the parish hall of All Saints Episcopal Church.

1:15 p.m.

Dillon is presenting a report on average daily attendance. He said the goal is to keep that number at 96 percent or above and that the district is holding in there despite flu season.

He said graduation coaches have done a great job of finding students who had dropped out and bringing them back and helping them.

Prather: On the ADA report, I noticed some schools had a higher ADA than others. They were at 97 percent instead of 96 percent like others. What are they doing well?

Dillon said they discuss this at the principal’s meeting and some schools have incentives they will share with the other schools. He said the great thing about the principal’s meeting is sharing ideas with other schools. That goes with teacher’s average daily attendance too, he said.

Dillon said the district has several protocols with flu season. They reverted back to having hand sanitizer in every classroom. They are wiping down each door knob and each desk every day. They are also asking students to wash their hands regularly.

Dillon said the district has not seen a big dip due to the flu. “We just hope and pray everything continues to go well with that.”

1:20 p.m.

Assistant superintendent Diana Ezell will make a presentation about discipline data. This is an update to a report she presented in the fall.

Compared to last year, the district has reduced the number of incidences from 4,169 to 3,176. “I think that is a remarkable change,” Ezell said.

The data is also broken down by school. Middle school reduced its incidents by 640 and the high school did so by 1,390. “I think that reflects their hard work,” she said.

Hudson asks if the over night required conferences is included in the incidents numbers. Ezell said it isn’t. She said principals have had 734 such conferences with parents this year and that she thinks that is the reason overall discipline numbers are down.

Ezell said participation at those meetings has been good.

She said she can see a big improvement in the attitude and confidence teachers have in the administration following through on discipline in the classroom…”Are we perfect? No, but we are going to work toward that.”

Heyer: How will this be communicated?

Dillon said it will be submitted at the next THS Council of Excellence meeting. Ezell said it was also given to the Teacher Advisory Committee and the Parent Council. She said there was also an article in the Daily Journal.

Ezell said being on the campuses, she can see a focus on safety and a focus on discipline and behavior. “I have seen support for positive behavior on all campuses.”

Ezell said all bus drivers were trained at the beginning of the year and have had two meetings since that. She said that has made a big difference for discipline. In the past, they had a meeting at the beginning of the year and talked about safety, but this year they had a consultant from the insurance industry come in and make a presentation. She said that made a big impact.

Prather said there was been a lot of community focus on discipline in the past few years. He said the board appreciates the work of the teachers and administrators in making progress on the issue.

1:28 p.m.

Ezell will now present two drafts of the school calendar. They are leaning toward draft one. They are still gathering information from surrounding districts and still trying to schedule IE Day.

Draft one would start on Aug. 5. That would give three extra full days of instruction before state testing. “Those three days make a difference,” she said.┬áIT would allow three full weekends on Christmas break instead of two.

The state department only allows two 60-percent days. On the calendar 1, those would be used for parent conferences. Under calendar 1, it would have a longer first semester (93 days) than second (87).

Loden said this is the last year until the new state law that prohibits districts from starting before the middle of August (I think it is the third Monday in August, or some time around then).

Loden said he will share calendars with other superintendents in January and hopes to have it to the board in February.

Because the state is only allowing two 60-percent days and one will be IE, the district won’t be able to have 60-percent days on the last day before Christmas and the last day of school. The last day of school will likely be a makeup work day at the high school, he said.

Ezell said they are coordinating with the universities on spring break.

1:35 p.m.

Loden will make a presentation about honor rolls.

At first quarter, 2,905 students were on the honor roll eligible for a sign. At Christmas break, the number was around 2,800. All told, 3,347 different young people were on the honor roll one quarter or another and have earned a yard sign.

1:37 p.m.

Community Liaison Mary Ann Plasencia will talk about a new Infosnap program the district is considering. It would provide for online re-registration and cut down on paperwork parents have to fill out.

Plasencia said they began looking at this last year and have heard from a number of parents for the need to do it. She hopes it will improve communication internally and with parents.

The program allows parents, guardians or grandparents to input all of the information on their children from any computer.

They had a conversation with the InfoSnap regional director recently. They also spoke with DeSoto County, which uses the program. 26,000 of the district’s 37,000 students were enrolled before the first day of school. Pascagoula also uses it.

“We learned from both of them, they were very pleased with the product,” Plascencia said.

She said it will streamline process for parents and guardians and will give most updated data (emergency data, contact information, address, etc..). She said it would improve customer service.

The parent would receive a letter or email from the district with a pin number. the parent would then go to the TPSD website that would have a link to the enrollment process.

“The beauty of the system is it is school specific and grade specific, so if we need specific information for a child at Milam or in ninth grade or in band or athletics, we can get it.”

In a large district it takes about 60 days and in a small district about 45 days from time district agrees to use the product until it is ready to start.

Parents can upload their information in multiple sittings. They don’t have to do it all at once but can log into their saved profile. They can also go back to the profile to update new information or re-review a policy in there.

“The only thing we did learn from DeSoto and PAacagoula is that everything can be uploaded by the parent expect the proof of residency. They would still need to go in and show drivers license or utility bill at the school. The wait time at Pascagolua went from about an hour to 15 minutes.”

Plascenica said it is a more efficient use of data entry and would help ensure information in student management system is up to date.

Data already in the system would be loaded into the system so parents of returning students would only need to update it.

Loden said the district would save $13,000 on paper and would also save some money on handbooks and on time from people who would have to enter all of the data from paper forms provided by parents.

Plasencia said the districts she spoke with did have to provide some paper copies for some families. She said this was the first year for both districts and they were surprised by how many people used it.

The cost is $33,937 for the first year and $22,000 for the second year. Loden said the district will save $13,000 in paper costs, some money in handbooks it won’t have to print and money in data entry costs.

Finance director Linda Pannell said the money would come from the district account. Plasencia said that paper savings may also be greater than $13,000.

Prather asks if the district can document any savings so the district can use that information when it looks at possibly renewing the contract.

Board approves Loden to proceed with purchase of InfoSnap for online registration.


Loden said the district will present in the near future reports on seniors at risk of not graduating, on the PSAT and on the district’s assistant principals program.

Wheeler said he would like Dillon and Hinds to present a report on the use of smart cards for student IDs. It would cost more but would allow the district to track students. He said it is a new trend, but there are also legal questions. HE said it would be helpful to study that.

Board goes into executive session at 2:04 to discuss its annual superintendent evaluation.

3:30 p.m.

Board came out of executive session and announced they had completed their required annual superintendent evaluation. The board voted to extend Loden’s contract by one year. It will now run through June 30, 2017.

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